Samuel has made his way to a pier along the river and plans to jump in and drown himself. He is standing there gathering his courage, when he is accosted by an older man, a sailor who has come there for the same reason. The sailor, Eloi, declines Samuel's invitation to join him in the jump and instead invites him back into town with him.
The two return to Lisbon and begin a two-day carouse, interspersed with a visit to Eloi's bedridden shrew of a wife, and culminating in Samuel's meeting the sailor's daughter, a deaf-mute hooker. This being a movie (albeit one with some artistic pretensions), Samuel immediately falls in love with her.